Pay Per Who?

A search for “paid content” turned up an item in ClickZ News that led to a report by the Online Publishers Association. It suggests paid content growth is slowing and shifting and becoming more solidly based on monthly subscriptions. The report, which covers Q1 and Q2 2004, came out in November. It can be downloaded for free. Here is my summary and spin. Consumers paid $853 million for content in the first half of 2004, a 14 percent year-over-year increase, which the association called down but “relatively robust for a maturing market.” Wow. I hope that doesn’t mean paid content is peaking! Personals and dating continue to dominate purchases but their growth rate is down to 6.4 percent. (People-to-people connections have always been the killer Internet app ever since email, a lesson publishers must surely heed.) Music downloads drove the entertainment spending, which is surely good news for Web publishers because it suggests consumers will buy stuff when we make it easy and cool — as with the iPod. The report contains many other nuggets on sales growth (or decline) by category of content, but the only other point I would highlight is how those who buy like to pay. A record 90 percent of the 16.8 million consumers whose behavior is reflected in the survey paid by subscription — and more than half of these are monthly as opposed to annual. I wonder whether the sampling methodology misses or understates single purchase decisions. I’ll snoop around in this direction later because I thinkWeb publishing resembles magazines, in terms of targeting niche interests. Thus online publishers need impulse purchase options to warm up consumers to make that monthly or annual plunge. Addendum: Monday I mentioned the Emerging Technology conference in Palo Alto. One attendee, Socialtext co-founder Ross Mayfield, offered a précis of the presentation by Bloglines chief executive Mark Fletcher in the wake of his outfit’s acquisition by AskJeeves.
“Bloglines is where users meet RSS: search, subscribe, share and publish,” Mayfield blogs, adding. “Future developments: Convergence with web search, Mutimedia, functional RSS feeds for more than just news, Richer blogging tools, more sharing and social networking features.”

Tom Abate
“Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media.”